The 2014 Gardening Season

2-27-2014 (14)Though nature had no plans to attend the opening of Detroit Garden Works today for the 2014 gardening season, the robins in the tree next door are here right on schedule.  Rob says they look to be the fattest robins ever.  I personally think they have their feathers fluffed out to the max-trying to defend themselves against the extreme cold.  On the news this morning, the following.  The combination of cold and snow this winter makes this the worst winter we have had for 130 years.  This means that the oldest gardener in my zone is experiencing a record breaking and a particularly heart breakingly endless winter for the first time.  This going on 64 year old gardener can attest to the accuracy of this statement.  I have never.

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgTaking the 2013 version of Detroit Garden Works apart, repainting and cleaning, reinventing and redoing with all the new things for 2014 is a big job.  Both of my landscape crews are instrumental in helping out the shop staff with this transformation.  This means that both Steve and I have been there with Rob to plan and consider every move that gets made.  Keeping up with the winter landscape design work for projects on deck for spring, with a big dose of Detroit Garden Works on the side means I have been really busy.  This level of being busy helps to keep my mind off the winter that has engulfed us all.  Though my landscape design practice is the love of my life, the shop is a close second.  How so?

DSC_7937All of what Rob buys interests me.  Containers, sculpture, fountains, tools are an integral part of gardening.  But placing every element in a 10,000 square foot space in an interesting and well designed way is a challenge.  But I am happy for the work-this greatly informs my landscape practice.  I am dealing with objects big and small.  Lots of colors.  This line and that one.  This shape that relates to that one.  A garage full of pallets of objects I have never seen before all need to have a home, a scheme.  Rob does the vast majority of the buying for the shop.  It falls some to him, and a lot to me about how to present his collection. It is not so much different than designing a landscape for a particular property, and a particular client.  Objects from many countries in February, each with their own shape, color, texture and mass ask for an arrangement that will please the eye.  Making sense of a whole world of disparate objects can be exasperating, but it is a job I would not trade for any other.

DSC_7944Designing a landscape asks for everything a gardener has available to them.  A love of the living earth.  A plan to compost, which will enrich any planting.  A plan to plant.  Lots of energy and good will.  Faith in one’s convictions.  And a plan that personally expresses what that gardeners values and needs from their garden.  A plan that is coherent.  Dissonant shapes, forms, textures and colors all ask for some sense to be made.  And sense can be made of those things in many different ways.  How Rob puts a series of things together is very different than mine, as it should be.  I can’t be privy to why he selected certain things, until I start to work with them.  Even then, I may visualize them in a very different way. As much as I enjoy poking around the pallets, I more enjoy making a melody from a lot of different voices.

DSC_7928Surfaces really interest me.  Some are shiny.  Some are smooth and matte.  Some are rough textured.  Others are dark-some are light.  One surface contrasted with another generates interest.  What is happening near the ground level interests me as much as what is at eye level.  Then there is that vast space overhead.  My first moves in the shop always involve covering the walls, and populating the air space.  Part of that had to do with staging the work.  An empty room is the ideal place to navigate with a big ladder.  Once that work is done, everything else is arranged to fit in the physical and visual space.

2-27-2014 (2)Anything that generates an interest in the garden is of interest to me.  What I like is big and wide-a lot.  On a good and rare day, it is deep.  Any person who responds to the garden interests me, whether it comes via my landscape practice, or my shop.  Any place that encourages people to garden is my idea of a good place.  Rob and I both subscribe to the idea that a great garden shop ultimately should provide an experience of the garden.

2-27-2014 (17)I will confess I am tired out from the work of the past month.  But this kind of tired is a good kind of tired.  I was truly thrilled that Detroit Garden Works opened for the 2014 gardening season as usual March 1-even though our winter rages on.  I am pleased we have been welcoming gardeners of every persuasion for 18 years, come March 29.  We were happy to have gardeners gracing our gates today. Spring is a state of mind-is it not?

2-27-2014 (12)Rob’s buying trips to growers of hellebores all over the US and Canada means we have plants in our greenhouse now, with many more to come.  The sight and smell of live and blooming plants is a sight for sore eyes.  We have planned an event the third week of March-a Helleborus Festivalis.  For every winter weary gardener who has another month of winter to go yet.  We have missed all of you that visit our shop!  See you soon.



  1. Thanks for taking the time to maintain this blog in addition to all you do for your business and home. Congrats on another year and wishing you a happy and successful 2014. Happy spring!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Happy spring to you too, Belinda. We are ready and willing for the garden-no matter the four fresh inches of snow that fell overnight! Best, Deborah

  2. The health of my bank account would be in serious trouble if I lived within shopping distance of your wonderful Detroit Garden Works.

  3. Kathleen says

    Thank God, thank all gods, for robins.

    Growing up as a child in Michigan, my Great Grandmother taught me to honor each robin
    appearing at the end of Winter with a ritual. This ritual required one to lick the thumb of the right
    hand, make a fist and then stamp the palm of the left hand.
    Maybe the cosmos keeps track of all the robin stamps? I don’t know.
    But I still do this. Hurry Spring.

    These days here in Boston, we’ve had a group of robins hanging around all winter.
    What were they thinking? What did they eat?
    In December, I found a derelict box of raisins in the back of a cupboard and threw them out under
    the bird feeder. The robins turned up.

    A lot of stamping of robins has been going on all Winter.
    In this cold Winter of no end, the robins have been standing by us all along.

  4. It’s exciting to see the start of another gardening season. Are the pots in the 4th photo used in the south to collect pine resin for making turpentine? I have just one that I received as a gift many years ago and is one of my favorite containers. There is a name for them, but it escapes me at the moment. Yours are beautiful!

  5. Roberta Bresette says

    Congratulations! Great to see you on page 66 of the Better Homes & Gardens March issue. You never disappoint Deborah. I am thinking about translating your container to Florida plants!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Roberta, translate away! It was great fun to be included in the BHG gardening issue. Christina Salwitz, whose pot is on the cover, came to Detroit Garden Works last summer after speaking at a conference in Chicago. It was a pleasure to meet and spend some time with her. Thanks, Deborah

  6. Dee Anne Proctor says

    Thank you, Deborah, for your creativity and faithful attention to your blog. I thaw been a HARD winter even for 7a. We will see what survives the coldest winter I know of on 30 years. The detail you give within your blogs takes me away to places I want to BE in my garden…..

    D in TN

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Dee, there will be muich to share once spring finally gets here. I don’t think I have ever longed for it as much as I do now. Deborah

  7. Think spring ☀️

    • Deborah Silver says

      Christine, We have been thinking spring for a month now. We may be stuck indoors, but we have done our best to create a warm and friendly space for gardeners. Rob redid all of the lighting yesterday-that takes a whole day. He described his lighting as “sunny” – ha! Deborah

  8. Can’t wait for the Hellebore show!! As a landscaper/gardener that plows in the Winter, this has been a Winter that’ll go down in my record books. My back reminds me every morning of the amount of snow we’ve endured together. Happy almost Spring!!!

    • Kathleen says

      I so wish I could attend your March-a-Helleborus Festivalis. On my next trip back home I most certainly will visit.
      More snow expected here in Boston. Aaack! I take consolation in thinking about the daffodils slumbering somewhere under the prodigious layer of snow and in making plans to get back to Michigan. : )

  9. You dear lady make my gardening heart sing!(and so does that amazing table). May the wonder of Spring grace us all soon! Thank you always Deborah!

  10. Very fine blog! I will definetely visit you again.

  11. Your blog makes me want to throw off my wooly hat and long johns and travel south to visit your shop! 8 foot snow banks still border my driveway.

    In fact, my gardening enthusiasm has been frozen so long this winter, that I began to question whether it had disappeared entirely. Until this lucky morning, that is, when I happened on your blog. It is beautiful, your store looks amazing, and like a bulbs beneath the snow – my passion for gardening has come alive again.

    Thanks so much.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Hilary, you have us beat. Our snow banks are only 6′ tall. The garden will be back-I am quite sure of that! Thanks,. Deborah

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